LANSING, Mich. -- A ruling this week by the Michigan Supreme Court will change the way convicted prisoners are sentenced to jail time.
Wednesday’s 5-2 ruling follows closely behind a recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that determined the way prisoners were being sentences was unconstitutional under the Sixth Amendment. Michigan followed suit, and now minimum sentencing could be a thing of the past.
“Really what this does is it gives the judges far more discretion today than it did three days ago,” said legal expert and WMU Cooley Law Professor Curt Benson.
The ruling will essentially throw out the rigid requirements for minimum sentencing and make them guidelines for judges to refer to when sentencing criminals. By taking away the mandatory sentencing criteria, judges will now have to look at the entire picture when sentencing.
“It’s saying, okay, we’re going to look at your past record and we’re going to look at what happened during the crime,” said Benson. “How violent was it? How many people have suffered?”
The change in Michigan was brought about after the appeal of Rahim Lockridge. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and received a ten year sentence – ten months longer than the minimum sentence for that particular crime. The appeal led to a review of Michigan’s sentencing policies, leading to Wednesday’s decision.
“The judge sits there and listens to the evidence,” said Benson, “and they study the pre-sentence investigation. So it’s really important we give judges a certain level of discretion. But uniformity throughout the state is a desirable goal as well.”